"In or Out?" - a Critical Discourse Analysis of David Cameron's speech on January 23, 2013 about Great Britain and the European Union

Torben Riis Jensen & Marianne Vibe KjĂžller

Student thesis: Termpaper


In this project we have been working with Critical Discourse Analysis tools as described by Lesley Jeffries in her book Critical Stylistics - The Power of English. We have been using the CDA-tools to do a Critical Discourse Analysis on chosen excerpts from the British Prime Minister David Cameron's speech about Britain and the European Union which he delivered on January 23, 2013. In the analysis we discovered that Cameron is essentially addressing three different audiences in his speech. Parts of the speech are directed at his two primary audiences: the EU-skeptical population in Britain and the EU-skeptical politicians in his own party and within the rest of the British Parliament. In other parts of the speech Cameron speaks to his third audience: politicians and governments in other European Union nations. Cameron hopes to be able to renegotiate a different EU treaty that will then give the foundation for a straight in or out-referendum about Britain's membership of the European Union. Cameron promises in the speech that this referendum will take place some time after 2015 if the Conservatives win the British election and retain Cameron's position as the Prime Minister. The main focus of this project has been on utilizing different CDA-tools to analyze the language, the use of verbs, modal verbs, nouns, etc. to help uncover the ideologies that are presented in the speech. Jeffries focuses primarily on two out of three of Norman Fairclough's stages of CDA-analysis: description and interpretation, and we have followed this focus throughout this project. The third level, explanation, where we would analyze the societal consequences and effects of the speech, is interesting as well, but due to the page limitations of this project, we have chosen to focus primarily on the two levels that deal the closest with the language of the text: description and interpretation. The tools Jeffries introduces in Critical Stylistics proved beneficial in the task of opening up the text and uncovering the various ideologies hidden in the text. We have analyzed the many different linguistic tools and variables Cameron uses in his speech to address these various audiences, and our conclusion shows that while we believe he does well at reaching and understanding his British audience, it will most likely prove much harder for him to convince his European counterparts that there is a need for a new EU treaty based on the terms that Cameron outlines in his speech.

EducationsEnglish, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Undergraduate or graduate
Publication date28 Jun 2013
SupervisorsAnne Fabricius


  • David Cameron
  • Great Britain
  • Lesley Jeffries
  • European Union
  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Critical Stylistics